In 1926, Gertrude Stein delivered the lecture “Composition as Explanation” to the Cambridge Literary Club at Oxford University (fig. 1).
In a 1913 pamphlet, F. T. Marinetti, best known for his “Manifesto of Futurism,” attributed the twentieth century’s “complete renewal of human sensibility” to a series of technological innovations, including “the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the train, the bicycle, the motorcycle, the automobile, the ocean liner, the dirigible, the aeroplane, the cinema, [and] the great newspaper.”
The crown jewel in the 1937 Hollywood musical Ready, Willing, & Able is an elaborate song-and-dance number called “Too Marvelous for Words.” A lovestruck male theater producer, attempting to write a love letter by dictation, is surrounded by an army of female secretaries: hanging on his words, clinging to ladders, sitting at typewriters. As the music picks up tempo, the secretaries tap their keys in time.
Birds and certain varieties of birds have long been potent symbols related to war and conflict. But as airplane technologies developed in rapid tandem with the coming and arrival of the Second World War, the connection between avian and aviation reached new heights in the cultural imagination.
Originally constructed in 1817, Auburn Correctional Facility in Upstate New York stands as the oldest continually functional maximum-security penitentiary in the United States. I doubt that its designers would have predicted that 200 years later the US would come to incarcerate more people than any other country in history. We currently make up only 5% of the world’s population, but confine about 21% of its prisoners.
In 1896, bodybuilder Eugen Sandow sat at a desk to devote himself to a mental task, rather than a physical one. He had recently returned to England from a trip to the United States, where he had collaborated with inventor W. K. L. Dickson on a mutoscope reel, an early moving-picture technology, and had posed for X-ray photographs after indicating his interest in the subject to Thomas Edison, who was proudly advertising his patented process for X-rays and fluoroscopes.